Inside: Boston's Gourmet Pizza
New Arena District eatery struggles to live up to its name
Special to Metromix
Chicago is known for hot dogs, New York is known for bagles, and Boston is known for ... pizza?
Well, maybe not, but that doesn't affect Boston's: The Gourmet Pizza, as the name of the new Arena District restaurant/bar has nothing to do with the Massachusetts city, as it turns out.
The Boston's casual dining franchise was started in the 1960s by a Greek immigrant living in Vancouver, who apparently just liked the name "Boston." Now, 50 years later, Columbus is finaly home to its very own Boston's, conveniently nestled between the Arena Grand theater, Nationwide Arena and Huntington Park.
Food: While Boston's claim to fame is that it has "gourmet pizza," the menu is eerily reminiscent to what you might find at Applebee's or TGI Friday's, if either franchise partnered with Pizza Hut.
The starters are conducive to sports watching, with a variety of items like Boston's Famous Wings (famous perhaps for the sauce options: creamy buffalo, lemon pepper, barbecue, Asian glaze, Cajun or hot, at a price of $8.29 for single order or $13.49 for a double), Cactus Cuts (homemade potato chips tossed in parmesan cheese and chipotle spices, with a sour cream-based dip, $4.75), breaded green beans and fried ravioli. The Cactus Cuts are delicious but get very spicy after a small handful, so consider yourself warned.
For entrees, there are a few options worth considering, including the famed "gourmet" pizza, pasta, salads or sandwiches and burgers. The pizza we had was definitely not gourmet, but with a crust that has a medium rise and is rather greasy and crispy, most similar in texture to Pizza Hut. The pomodoro sauce is almost like a vodka sauce in consistency (minus the vodka) and there is a TON of cheese that really weighs things down.
We had the Tuscan Pizza, loaded with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, spinach, feta cheese, cheddar cheese and mozzarella ($13.49 for a small pie, which is plenty for two people). The result of this topping overload was not a good one—that much cheese on the greasy crust, plus an overwhelming amount of sun-dried tomatoes and buffalo chicken left us with guilty feelings all night, not to mention the stomach aches.
The burger we tried was the seasonal blue cheese burger, with hot sauce cooked into the whole thing. It was a little dry and over-cooked, and not as flavorful as one might expect from a blue cheese burger with hot sauce. It was spicy, and there was no lettuce, tomato, onion or mayo anywhere to come to the burger's aide.
However, as a side dish, we did have some of the best fries Columbus has to offer.
Libations: If you're in the Arena District before going a concert or a big game, Boston's might be a great place to stop in for drinks and appetizers, considering the location and the great deals. Happy hour runs from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays, with $3 margaritas (choose from lime, raspberry or strawberry to get the special), $2 domestic bottles, $1 off 32-ounce mugs, and $2 off appetizers. The raspberry margarita is an excellent choice after a long day, and it tastes a lot like raspberry lemonade, which is always a good thing.
Décor: Boston's is best described as a sports bar, and it is a franchise, so each location subscribes to the local sports teams. Expect tons of framed sports pictures and posters relating to the Clippers, the Indians and the Blue Jackets, all hanging on walls that surround high bar tables, a circular bar in the center of the place, and a nice sidewalk patio that lines Nationwide Boulevard. Boston's is located in a newer building in the Arena District, and is therefore welcomingly fresh, clean and updated in appearance, and it fits in easily with the new vibe down in that area.
Service: Service at Boston's is friendly and welcoming, and there are plenty of people on staff to help host, tend bar and serve tables. This is great for a casual downtown dining experience, where you often find servers who do it all and have less time for individual tables. At Boston's, the servers are happy to help with drink selections, offering tips on the happy hour specials, and they check in frequently to make sure you're satisfied.
Crowd: Everyone at Boston's gives off a casual air, usually related to the fact that they're there at the end of a long workday or in light of a sporting event they're preparing for. The crowd is pretty standard in age and in atmosphere to what you would expect from Applebee's or Max and Erma's, minus the kids on a regular (non-game) night.
Insider's tip: Boston's might be an odd choice on a night when there isn't a sports game going on, and it may not feel like an experience worth the trip downtown and the $3 parking garage charge. We suggest heading there before a game for best results—and yes, the parking garage attached to the Arena Grand theater is our top suggestion for parking.
Bottom line: Boston's is the latest casual dining chain addition to the downtown dining experience, and with prices that hardly rival local hot spots and overly seasoned food that definitely does not, it might be in your stomach's better interests to go elsewhere for a full meal in the Arena District. However, we loved the happy hour specials and the snack offerings at Boston's, so it's a great stop if you're looking for a quick drink and a little food.
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